June 12, 2021
Lawrence, US 86 F
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Preview: Lawrence school board meeting, April 12

District to decide future use of Kennedy Elementary building

Lawrence school board members will meet at 5 p.m. Monday beginning with a work session focused on the proposal to convert Kennedy Elementary to an early childhood community center. The plan also includes a proposed boundary change that would move about 170 K-5 students to Cordley, New York or Prairie Park in the fall.

The regular meeting follows at 6 p.m. with a vote scheduled to decide the outcome of the plan.

The agenda shows the work session will include a budget update by Kathy Johnson, executive director of finance. A preview of the presentation shows the district estimates it would save $722,214 by moving K-5 students to other schools. Staff affected by the move could fill open positions across the district.

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The district estimates a budget shortfall of $1.8 million during the current fiscal year and a permanent and ongoing loss of $1.2 million into fiscal year 2021-22, and potentially 2022-23, if enrollment doesn’t increase significantly, according to an email Julie Boyle, executive director of communications, sent to The Lawrence Times.

This presentation screenshot shows the boundary changes considered by the district’s Boundary Advisory Committee. The Lawrence school board will vote on Option 2 at its meeting Monday, April 12.

As the Times previously reported, the plan originated in the district’s Budget and Program Evaluation Committee and has received approval from the district’s Boundary Advisory Committee.

In online forums with Kennedy stakeholders, Superintendent Dr. Anthony Lewis proposed using the building to expand its early childhood education programs and collaborate with organizations to offer additional services that would benefit families with low incomes. The proposal has come under scrutiny from the Kennedy community and education advocates, as reported by the Times.

Other business

Below are some other noteworthy items from the consent agenda. Items on the consent agenda are considered altogether unless a board member, the superintendent or member of the public requests that an item be removed and voted on separately.

• Action: Adopt procedures pursuant to Senate Bill 40, which gives local school boards authority to make decisions about student attendance, educational models and safety interventions to combat the spread of COVID-19, according to a news brief by the Kansas Association of School Boards.

Context: Any employee, student or parent or guardian of a student who feels aggrieved by a board’s decision may request a hearing. This vote authorizes the board to adopt rules and procedures and gives Lewis, the superintendent, or his designee the authority to conduct hearings on behalf of the district. The bill was signed into law by Gov. Laura Kelly on March 24.

• Action: Authorize purchase of 2,500 iPad carry cases and screen covers for elementary students’ devices for $36,000.

Context: Since the 2019-2020 school year, all district elementary students have been provided an iPad for educational use at home and in school.

Find the board meeting’s full agenda and related documents here.

Watch the live work session and board meeting via livestream here or tune in to Midco Channel 26 starting at 5 p.m. Monday. The school board is scheduled to vote on the proposal to repurpose Kennedy Elementary during the regular portion of the meeting, which begins at 6 p.m.

To submit written public comment or to participate via WebEx, email patroncommentary@usd497.org before 5 p.m. Monday. Patrons will receive a link to join the videoconference by phone or computer.

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